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In an age when both job specialization and constraints on our time have ramped up considerably, full-fledged degree programs don’t always fit the bill. For many looking to gain a career edge, it’s badges, credentials and certifications that have started to emerge as hot commodities — a trend known as micro-credentialing.

Increasingly, higher education consumers are looking more granularly at their scholarship — particularly when it comes to professional development opportunities for those already well on their career path.

In an age when both job specialization and constraints on our time have ramped up considerably, full-fledged degree programs don’t always fit the bill.

For many looking to gain a career edge, it’s badges, credentials and certifications that have started to emerge as hot commodities.

The trend is known as micro-credentialing, and despite the diminutive name, there’s nothing small about it.

Ultimately, it represents a “a key element of an answer to the nagging challenge facing higher education and employers” — the ability of learners to verifiably document and easily communicate the acquisition of relevant skills and experience, writes Geoff Irvine, CEO of Chalk & Wire and an education technology industry pundit.

Additionally, Irvine writes in eCampus News, “Badging will help learners view their formal education as part of a lifelong continuum of skills acquisition and documentation.”

“Higher ed,” he says, “needs to bravely take on the challenge of verifying and documenting academic and co-curricular aspects of student learning in a way that allows employers to see and find the candidates they need.”

Creighton, showing it is up to that challenge, is wading determinedly into the micro-credentialing waters.

The University has rolled out more than two dozen of the bite-sized programs in the blossoming world of badges, credentials and certifications.

Creighton, through its newly established Center for Professional and Corporate Excellence (CPCE), now offers badges in professional development areas ranging from communication to negotiation and conflict resolution, and from technology and innovation to project management — and well beyond.

The CPCE was envisioned and launched as part of Creighton’s strategic plan; it was built on a foundation previously established within the Heider College of Business by Dean Anthony Hendrickson, PhD, and his team.

Credentials — evidence of completing specific training or education programs that is typically valid for a limited number of years — are now offered in project management, finance and Agile/Scrum for product development.

And a slew of certifications in business, health care and education also are available through the CPCE.

Tricia Brundo Sharrar, BA ’93, JD ’96, vice provost for academic administration and partnerships, leads Creighton’s CPCE. She says the micro-credentialing framework can be seen as a progression. From the professional development point of view, badges lead to credentials and certificates, which in turn can lead to the pursuit of degrees.

“It’s a pipeline into our programs of excellence,” she says.

The trend has gained substantial traction — and credibility. Look no further than Harvard, Northwestern and other such heavy hitters for evidence that a new age of micro-credentials has dawned, Sharrar says.

Badge programs in drone aviation and design thinking, taught largely online, debuted earlier this year in partnership with Creighton’s innovation, research and development group, RaD Lab.

Lifestyle medicine, communication, and negotiation and conflict resolution are a few of the initial focus areas of the CPCE’s badging efforts. A communication badge, comprising a quartet of four-hour, instructor-led courses designed for professionals, covers such ground as body language, public speaking, email and digital communication best practices, and other facets of modern workplace communication.

A badge in lifestyle medicine involves two eight-week courses, conducted online, that explore the application of healthy lifestyle behaviors to prevent and treat chronic diseases.

One of the big draws to micro-credentialing is the ability to “stack” them. Earning a series of badges, certificates and credentials can help you fully illustrate your skills and areas of expertise, Sharrar says. That’s valuable not just for job seekers, she says, but for all professionals looking to develop the skills necessary to gain industry competencies, close the knowledge gap to advance professionally, and “contribute to the ethical leadership in our community, the region and beyond.”

This may not be an entirely new approach to continuing education and professional development, but one of the unique things about this burgeoning trend is the underlying technological component. Badges are verified through a micro-credential management system and can be displayed digitally using LinkedIn, webpages and other methods.

When someone clicks on your badge, a dedicated webpage is displayed that shows you have completed the necessary coursework, along with information about the badge and the requirements for completion.

Badges issued by Creighton are digitally encoded with information using the Mozilla Open Badge Framework. Badges can be downloaded and saved by the recipient without losing their authenticity, making them portable.

Ultimately, micro-credentials are about sharpening and expanding your skill sets, showing employers — current or prospective — that you’re up to the task.

“In a competitive job market,” Sharrar says, “earning these achievements is a great way to differentiate yourself.”

Creighton’s badge, credential and certification program offerings can be found online at the CPCE website.

The CPCE strives to cultivate corporate partnerships by collaborating with organizations to create customizable solutions through which they can develop their workforce, further their mission and attract new talent. More information about partnering with Creighton is available at excellence.creighton.edu.

Creighton University offers a top-ranked education in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition — and a welcoming, supportive environment to a diverse community of educators, professionals and support staff. Read more about the university, and connect with Creighton on  Facebook,  Twitter  and  Instagram.

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